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Oxford professors seek tribunal over forced retirement policy

University of Oxford professors are launching an age discrimination claim against the institution over its forced retirement policy.

The university currently has a rule, its Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA) policy, that means at salary grade eight or above (earning more than £58,000) professors have to retire when they turn 68.

Oxford's EJRA review group chair David Paterson previously said the policy was designed to focus on inter-generational fairness, diversity and succession planning. 

An internal review had recommended that academic staff, such as researchers and administrative employees, should be exempt from the policy.

Should they meet certain criteria, such as giving up their existing role and funding their employment themselves, employees have the chance to extend their employment with the university for a fixed period after they turn 69. 

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The state pension age in the UK is currently 66, and it is scheduled to rise again in the future, to 67 by 2028 and to 68 by 2046.

Default retirement ages were scrapped in the UK in 2011 following campaigning from charity Age UK. This enabled people to work past the age of 65 if they wanted to.

Companies retained the right to dismiss workers above this age, but reasons had to be based on performance only.

Oxford University has had to deal with age discrimination claims from employees in the past.

One department head was awarded £30,000 in 2020 after making a claim, before being re-instated to their prior position.

A spokesperson for the University said: “After extensive consultation with staff from across the University, changes have been proposed for the Employer Justified Retirement Age scheme, subject to approval this term by Congregation, the University’s sovereign body.

“Staff have been fully informed of the proposed changes at this stage and, if approved, transition arrangements will be put in place to ensure fairness in implementing the changes.”